I’m not doing any commission work at the moment. I have too much other stuff going on, both in the shop and out, to devote the proper time and attention I feel it should receive. But once I get back into the swing of making things for others, one of my first priorities is to write up a semi-formal document that highlights the various options I make available to anyone ordering a box, like wood species, box design, and hardware options.
When I come across something that accomplishes a similar goal and has great visual interest, I take note of it. I’m not sure I’ll do anything this fancy, but I really love what the marketing team for FurnitureUK came up with for their site. It does a fantastic job of helping their customers have a better understanding of the materials used for their furniture. Honestly, a lot of beginning woodworkers might find some of this information useful as well, so I’m including it here.
They have several creative things on their website I really like, such as their Furniture Through The Ages page. Unless my four year old suddenly turns into a programming savant, I’m afraid I won’t have anything that fancy. But it’s fun to look at.
If you sell commissioned pieces, do you already offer information on what choices a potential customer is able to make? If so, what kind of information do you provide? If you don’t have anything like that, you might consider writing something up!
When I turned 40 last year, I decided to celebrate my life thus far with a custom plane from Wayne Anderson. It was a bit of an expense, so sometime around mid-summer of the previous year, I printed out Chris Schwarz’s article about Wayne from back in 2008 (I think) and stuck it up on a wall in my office at work (half the walls are there; you have to imagine the other half… and the door). Then, I stuck a Post-It note next to it with my target goal and started saving.
Sometimes it was gift money and sometimes it was money earned by selling something I’d made or some tools I didn’t need or want; either way, it all went into my secret stash spot (undisclosed for my protection). I crossed off the total and updated the Post-It until I had enough, then I placed my order.
Well… it didn’t exactly go THAT easily. I also picked up the wood I wanted Wayne to use when making my miter plane and shipped it to him for confirmation that it would work. After that, there was a lot of back-and-forth with him as we planned out the details of what I wanted. In the end, I told him what style in which I wanted the plane made. I told him I wanted a plane that would be uniquely mine. I gave him a few extra design ideas, but then I put my faith in the hands of the artist and let him make the plane how he saw fit. The final result was breathtaking.
I don’t at all feel the need to justify such a purchase to anyone. Not even my wife, in fact; as long as I don’t use money from the family budget, she couldn’t care less what I buy for my hobby, as long as I’m having fun. But I do enjoy talking about it and if you’re interested in hearing more about it, read on. If you just want to see pictures, then skip the words…
Woodworking is a hobby for me. If your hobby is not fun, then you’re doing it wrong. (This is starting to sound familiar; I don’t want to rehash “But Aren’t You A Woodworker?”, an end-grain article I wrote for Popular Woodworking back in December of 2009, so please do look that up for further background information, if you want it.)
For me, “fun” is being surrounded with tools that speak to me and are comfortable to use when I’m in my shop. I like tools that are personal (or personalized) and for which I have an affinity, because of how they were made, what materials were used, or where they are from. This is why almost everything I own from Blue Spruce Toolworks has a custom curly mahogany handle on it – I sent Dave Jeske the wood I wanted him to use from my own personal stock of curly mahogany I’d gathered up over the years. This is why my favorite slitting gauge is 120 years old and made out of English boxwood with a wonderful mellow patina. This is why my favorite saw is a 100 year old Tyzack dovetail saw that fits my hand like a glove.
It is the same with my Wayne Anderson smoothing plane. The infill and wedge are made out of bog oak from the west of Ireland, the same Irish county as where some of my ancestors have come from, as I understand it. The shamrock cut-outs in the back are also a reflection of my Irish heritage. The wood selection for the infill is further significant because I use reclaimed bog oak in many of my projects.
The second I unrolled the last bit of bubble wrap from this plane and held the plane in my hands, I had something of a spiritual connection with it. It felt “right” for me to use this tool to aid me in making things with my hands. That kind of feeling is not very easy to describe; I don’t think you can fully understand it until you’ve felt it.
I’ve had the plane for over a year now, yet this is the first I’ve officially said anything about it in blog-form. When I get a new tool, I like to give it fair amount of time in the shop before I write something up about it. This is sometimes a challenge, especially when that tool is so amazing I want to stand on a mountain top and shout its praises! Although first impressions are important, I don’t want to just talk about appearances; I’ve had tools that looked great but their performance was mediocre at best. I want to be able to discuss how it performs and how it sets up and how I use it in the shop, in addition to the fit and finish.
When I got the plane home, the first thing I did was crosscut a piece of walnut to clean up the end grain. Man, it was such a good feeling to take a tool that was designed for a specific purpose, use it for that purpose, and have it work exactly the way you expect it to.
To make myself comfortable with it, I removed and set up the plane iron several times before I sharpened the blade. With the way Wayne designs his lever caps and uses them in combination with the wedge, I had the blade set up and taking end grain shavings again in a matter of seconds, it was that easy. Since then, I’ve taken it apart and put it back together about 10 times now, even though I’ve only had to touch up the blade once.
Over the last year, I’ve used it quite often. Though I keep it clean, I decided to let it keep its patina as a record of honest use. This isn’t some trophy I stuck up on a shelf to admire…
You can use it for smoothing non-figured face grain, but it excels at slicing end-grain so cleanly you can see a reflection in it.* I built a dedicated 90 degree shooting board for it that gives me perfectly square end-grain with little effort. (I still need to get around to either adding a modification to it or making a completely separate shooting board for 45 degree cuts.)
I’ve also used it off the shooting board and it works just as well. I have a finely-tuned Stanley low angle block plane that was my go to plane for end grain for many years. I tried to compare the two side-by-side, but it just didn’t seem fair. The miter plane out-shined the lighter block plane in every test by a huge margin. I still use the block plane in some instances, though, like when I had to do some on-site work at Finley’s school the other week. I guess I’m not quite comfortable taking my miter plane out for walks just yet.
So my love of this plane isn’t purely for aesthetic reasons; there are certainly some mechanical advantages to the heavier miter plane. For me, it’s a complete package, a combination of ease and comfort that makes my woodworking more enjoyable. You can add to that the fact I am the owner of a completely unique piece of woodworking history. I could set my plane down on a table with 150 other Wayne Anderson planes and immediately pick it out from the others. Plus, barring some extreme trauma or apocalyptic event, I have the only miter plane I will hopefully be using for the next 40 years. After that, my son will finally be able to touch it and can use it for as long as he wants, as well.
I’m sure others will find they get the appropriate level of enjoyment out of their woodworking without having such a plane in their shop. I understand that; I get it. There are people out there who cook on a $1500 grill and need (relative term) a $10,000 Man Cave in order to watch sports with their friends. I don’t belittle them for spending their money on what they want, even though I do just fine with my $125 grill from Walmart and a moderately-sized flat screen TV in a regular old family room. I don’t waste any time wondering if those people would belittle me for my “extravagant” plane. To be honest with you, I don’t care. This isn’t their hobby – it’s mine (see paragraph 5).
I guess the only drawback to my miter plane is that now I have the desire to show up at the next Wayne Anderson Plane Reunion. And I can pretty much guarantee you I’m not going to wait until my 50th birthday before I send Wayne some more wood and a check for another plane. This time I have my eye on one of his smaller smoothing planes. It will be worth every penny I’m already starting to save.
*Possibly a slight exaggeration.
(Editor’s Note: The blog title says “Part One” because I’m sure at some point I’ll write about some of my other tools that are more than just useful tools in my shop. They aren’t necessarily uber-expensive tools, but maybe extravagances in other ways. I don’t have anything in mind just yet, but… you never know.)
I love Monty Python. There has been nothing quite like it ever since, though John Kleese and Michael Palin have certainly come close with such films as A Fish Called Wanda and it’s equal, Fierce Creatures.
One of my favorite scenes from Fierce Creatures is when Willa has just come back from a jog and ends up in a room with Jambo the gorilla. Jambo gets out of his cage to get some bananas and they have a moment of connection. Willa makes first contact and she finally realizes what it is all about.
The other day I made some shelves for Finley’s school. It is a Montessori school and the elementary kids are set up in a converted split-level house. Aside from some changes for fire code and the like, it is pretty much just… well, a house, which is the kind of environment Maria Montessori promoted. But the kids needed shelving for lunch bags more than they needed a wine rack, so the latter had to go.
I couldn’t just cut some boards to size and set them on cleats, though, could I? This was an opportunity to pull out my latest purchase from Josh Clark, a small ogee molding plane, and put a profile on the front edge of each shelf.
With Michael Dunbar’s book on restoring tools at my side, I disassembled the plane and looked it over. When I sighted down the sole with the iron sticking out, it made a good halo of the profile, so I figured I just needed to wax the sole and get the iron back to sharp. I flattened the face of the iron and used ceramic profiled hones to try and touch up the bezel. At first, I was worried about changing the profile by working it too much, but later realized I shouldn’t have been after trying to change the profile with them on another moulding plane. It isn’t easy to do!
I took a bit of time making sure the wood I used had clear front edges and then cut them to size with hand saws. I used the bandsaw to rip some cleats and cleaned everything up with hand planes. I was a little unsure of one of the shelves – the large triangular one destined for a space just next to where the wine rack used to be. The vertex opposite the hypotenuse (oh, Geometry, how I’ve missed you!) was just a bit off of 90 degrees, but after thinking it through, I was confident I could get it close and then work on it in situ for a proper fit.
I clamped the first board to the workbench, checked the angle to be sure I had the plane properly sprung, and made the first pass. The shaving was a touch thick, so I backed the iron off just a little and tried again. That reduced resistance, but it still took a good shaving, so I left it there and made some more passes. A minute or two later, the plane stopped cutting. I set it down and examined the results. All it needed was a little bit of sanding to knock off the sharp edges and…
That was when I made contact.
I stopped what I was doing. My eyes wandered from the crisp profile on the front of the shelf to the plane and then to the pile of shavings on the end of the bench. I pulled up a stool and sat at the work bench for a while, giving the old plane a more respectful examination…
The toe displays stamps by two previous owners, one W.MANN (who overlapped his stamps) and what looks to be a homemade stamp by another owner, R.C. Above those stamps is the maker’s stamp of “I.SYM”. I measured the angle of the iron with a protractor – it was a little over 55 degrees – a hair over cabinet pitch. As I turned the plane over, I could imagine where fingers and hands had pressed into it, adding dirt and grime in some areas and rubbing it smooth in others.
According to Goodman (British Planemakers from 1700, William Louis Goodman), John Sym was a planemaker in London, England, who worked from 1753 through 1803. Wow. This guy made planes for 50 years during a time when the average life expectancy was just 40! Aside from a few hammer dings and two more overlapping stamps on the heel by our friend, Mr. Mann, it is in remarkably sound shape for a tool that is over 200 years old!
Using a bit of old flannel cloth and some Kramer’s restorer, I gently worked away a bit of the grime and dirt from the top, the ends, and both sides. I wiped it clean with another old flannel cloth – clean, but not “cleaned”. Finally, I cleared some errant bits of wood from the throat and put it away.
The next day, I went to Finley’s school and installed the shelves. I had to make a few minor changes; I’d brought a few of my go-to tools, though, so it wasn’t a big deal. The large triangle-shaped shelf did need some help before it seated properly in place, as I figured it would. So I set it up on my old Stanley Workmate and went at it with the low angle block plane and in no time I had a good fit.
Unfortunately, as soon as I showed up, I realized I was supposed to make TWO (2) shelves for the wine rack area, not one, so I couldn’t finish it that day. But I had exact measurements of the other shelf, which was a perfect fit, so it didn’t take me but 10 minutes to whip out another one, including profiling the edge, later that night. I’ll install it some time this week.
I’m already trying to figure out where I can put that plane to work on a future project. If you’ve looking for a simple profile moulding plane to give this a try, you might check with Josh to see what he has in stock or what he can get for you in the future! I’ve bought several things from him over the years and every transaction has been a pleasant one.
(Thanks to Josh Clark for some great pictures of the plane and the background information on John Sym.)
Bill Rittner (Hardware City Tools) recently made a knob and tote set out of holly for Catharine Kennedy (Custom Engraving by Catharine Kennedy). Bill had procured enough of the wood to make a second set. Being one who loves customized and personalized tools in my shop, I saw an opportunity to upgrade one of my planes with something pretty special, so I took a bit of money out of my woodworking funds and purchased it.
The idea was to figure out what plane I wanted to put it on and then have Catharine do some engraving on it, as well. Unfortunately, for various reasons, I had trouble deciding what plane I wanted to upgrade. My go-to smoothing plane has a cracked cheek that might not do well with being engraved on, my jointer plane would be quite costly to engrave and might be a bit heavy for the holly tote (not really sure about that, but I’d rather not take the chance), and my #5, a Type 18, isn’t really a favorite of mine, though it does its job well and I haven’t found the need to replace it.
A few weeks ago, I was at an estate sale, where I happened upon an old #5c that seemed to be in good shape. I didn’t have any need for another jack plane, but they only wanted $5 for the thing, so I figured at the least I could buy it and hand it over to a needy member of the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild who was just starting to get into hand tools.
As I was once again going through my planes last night (I don’t have that many, so it doesn’t take long), my eyes rested on the new #5c. I picked it up, wondering if I might not get rid of it. A quick glance at the Woodnet Stanley Type flow chart confirmed what I’d originally thought – it was a Type 13. But after examining it more closely, I noted something odd. It was pretty much completely rust-free! It did have an interesting bronze-like patina to it and the dust left on it from years of sitting idle seemed to be caked on, somehow, but the only rust I found after dis-assembly was on the post inside the knob. That settled it; I pulled out the restoration tools and some blue gloves and went to work.
All of the small parts soaked in low-odor mineral spirits while I cleaned up the body.
The mineral spirits helped, but I didn’t see really good results until I started using an orange-based degreaser, which made me wonder if the plane hadn’t been coated with some sort of rust-preventative 80 years earlier and then sat unused ever since.
The small bits cleaned up nicely, but I was more impressed with the condition of the body…
It has close to 95% of its japanning left, even on the frog.
The tote has a little bit of sapwood on the horn, which always looks nice. I’ll hold on to these in case I need to replace them on a different plane in the future.
I still need to clean up the bottom a little; it doesn’t need to be flattened, but I do want to remove some of the gunk so it doesn’t drag across the wood. Before I send it off to Catharine for engraving (I need to save up a bit first), I’ll clean up the sides a bit more to make sure she has a nice canvas to work off of.
Here is the before again, followed by the after.
I believe my old #5 just got replaced.
Before reassembly, I took some tracings of the two sides so I can start working on engraving ideas. I already have a few worked out, but you’ll have to wait a bit to see them. Sorry. :)
(And now you know why it takes so long for me to get anything done in the shop. I have some sort of woodworking-based ADHD.)
I want to address some of the comments I’ve recently received on a few of my blog posts that were accidentally caught by the SPAM filter. I didn’t want to have to go through the whole rigmarole of moving and approving and posting replies to each comment, so I thought I’d just collect them all into one entry to make it easier. Apologies for taking so long to address your comments! Please keep them coming!
“That is very fascinating, You’re an excessively professional blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look ahead to seeking extra of your excellent post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks”
Excessively professional? Sorry about that. In the future, I will try to limit my professionalism to proper amounts. Or was that supposed to be a compliment? If so, then I’m excessively thankful!
“You could definitely see your skills in the work you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow your heart.”
Thank you! I work hard to use the skills in the work that I write. Your comment reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the movie Braveheart. It was the scene where William’s dad was on his death bed – well, technically he was already dead and it was a dream sequence, so… maybe his dream bed? Or his ghost bed? Anyway, he says, “Your heart is free, William. Have the courage to follow her!” Even in death, his dad had great words of wisdom for him, just like you have for me! Don’t know if I’d call my heart a “her”, though. Not trying to be sexist or anything, but, you know, genetically speaking, I’m a guy. I assume that means all organs with my DNA sequence have the XY chromosome.
“A tooth (plural teeth) is a mignonne, calcified, whitish build found in the jaws (or mouths) of various vertebrates and habituated to to sever down food. Some animals, strikingly carnivores, also partake of teeth repayment for hunting or instead of defensive purposes. The roots of teeth are covered by gums. Teeth are not made of bone, but fairly of multiple tissues of varying density and hardness.”
Er… I think I was maybe talking about a saw tooth (or teeth, as it were). But thanks for playing.
“you’re in reality a just right webmaster. The website loading speed is incredible. It seems that you’re doing any unique trick. Moreover, The contents are masterwork. you have done a excellent process in this subject!”
You mean in my FANTASY I’m a just right webmaster. Unfortunately, I can’t take all of the credit for the blog page. In fact, I can’t take any credit for it! I use WordPress and they do almost all of the work. I can, however, take credit for my masterful content! I appreciate the kind words! Thanks for taking the time to pass them on!
“I’m impressed, I have to say. Actually rarely do I encounter a weblog that is both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve got hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the concern is some thing that not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I’m pretty happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.”
Have you ever heard of Vaguebooking? If not, you should look into it. I bet you’d be AWESOME at it.
“In this section, we are going to look at style and some fashion tips for men that you’re going to have to adapt to so that you know how to be a male gigolo that will have his clients asking for his services time and time again. This means that they can carry this fashion whether they wear sleeveless tops or blazers, they can command attention and presence upon entering the conference room. Lopez was named Legend for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts.”
Look, just because I wear a kilt, that doesn’t mean I’m a gigolo. And does anyone call it a blazer anymore? Or is that a term you have to use when you’re wearing an ascot? I’ve considered wearing an ascot in the shop before. You know, to take the idea of the 19th Century craftsman working in his white dress shirt and slacks and carrying it over into a contemporary shop. Well, carrying it over into a 1970’s era Scooby Doo shop, maybe.
“An interesting discussion is worth comment. I feel that you simply must write extra on this subject, it could possibly not be a taboo topic but typically folks are not sufficient to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers”
Hmmm… I really try and steer clear of subjects that are NOT taboo. I do hate to be boring. Here’s to the next non-boring taboo blog post! Cheers!
“The next time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this 1. I mean, I know it was my selection to read, but I in fact thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is usually a bunch of whining about something which you could fix if you ever werent too busy looking for attention.”
Oh, wow, I’m sorry I’ve disappointed you! You are right, though, I do like attention. I’m an attention whore. Or maybe an attention gigolo (see above)? But whining? I’m not so sure that is accurate. And, to be completely honest with you, I’m not sure I like your tone! So maybe you can just… SPAM it up your spamhole, Lafleur. Nobody makes me bleed my own blood. Nobody!
P.S. I think your apostrophe key is broken or missing. Might want to look into that.
Fancy title, innit? For the record, this is my shop and I’m doing the upgrade to my own bandsaw, but I did not come up with this idea; I’m just documenting it for posterity.
Warning: This post is picture-heavy. Not really a warning if you like pictures, I suppose…
A few months ago, a friend of mine, Dan, helped me tune up my bandsaw. The next time he saw me, he gave me a large box and told me how to use what was inside for better dust collection. I put it off for a while, but after moving the bandsaw down into the shop and using it a few times, I could see why the dust collection was necessary – when you don’t run a table saw, planer, or jointer in your shop, you can easily tell when something is spewing dust into the air. So this past weekend I set about rigging up some dust collection for my bandsaw.
The item Dan gave me was a Ridgid planer dust collector he’d picked up on clearance for $1.00. He showed me a picture of how he’d set his up and I went from there.
Inside was just the dust collector hood, a cap for the large opening, and a threaded connector.
I tossed the connector and cut the hood in half on the bandsaw. The half with the big opening is what I was going to use for the dust collection.
I had to mark and remove some material to get a tighter fit. I decided to use a coping saw for this, rather than fuss with cutting oddly shaped pieces of plastic that I couldn’t get to lay flat on the bandsaw.
Then I needed to add an extension tab to the dust hood so I could piggyback it onto the threaded post that secures the bottom wheel cover. This was the easiest way of attaching the dust hood to the bandsaw without drilling more holes than necessary. To get the needed material, I cut out a square of plastic from the flat section of the cut-off piece.
I held the pieces about where they should be, in relation to the threaded post, and marked my cut lines. Then I made the cuts with the coping saw.
After clamping the square extension in place, I lined up the dust hood and marked where they met up.
Holding the extension in place with double-stick tape, I marked locations for rivet holes and drilled them out with a hand drill.
Starting the rivets from the inside of the dust hood, I snapped two into place and attached it to the bandsaw to see how I did. The fit was good, but the rivets were not mushrooming enough, probably because of the material. So I picked up some 1/8” rivet washers, tapped out the rivets with a nail punch, and tried again. After a little negotiation with a hammer, I was much happier with the result.
In order to use the 2” reducer necessary to hook up my Festool Dust Extractor hose, I needed to cut a hole in the included cap. I chucked a 2” Forstner bit into the drill press and it came out cleanly.
At that point, I was able to connect everything the way it needed to be. I did use a bit of foam weatherseal tape to eliminate some of the gaps between the back side of the hood and the cast iron frame. Obviously I was not able to seal up all of the gaps, but I did what I could. Then I set it in place and tightened down the wingnut for the wheel cover.
For a test run, I grabbed a piece of walnut I’d already marked for waste removal, turned on the dust extractor, and made a cut.
The dust you see on the bandsaw base is coming from the fairly large gap (1/16”) left by the lower wheel cover when it is attached. I suppose I could drill a hole in the lower cover and attach a second hose to the bandsaw for better dust collection, but… I’m not so sure I’m ready to permanently modify my bandsaw like that just yet. Maybe I will consider that in the future, though.
Compared to what it was like before (lots of dust on the table, base, lower shelf, and floor, as well as a notable amount of dust in the air), this is a huge improvement. There is minimal dust on the table and just a bit of dust on the base. There was no sawdust on the bottom shelf or the floor and the amount of dust floating in the air was significantly reduced, as well.
The total cost for this fix was maybe $10 total for the 2” reducer and the rivet washers. I guess you could add another $1 for the cost of the planer hood. Not a bad investment for a healthier shop environment.
Mark Harrell, proprietor of Bad Axe Tool Works, has been working on a series of articles on how to restore a traditional backsaw.
Right now, the articles are only on FaceBook, but he is working on getting them formatted into a page on his website, www.badaxetoolworks.com, in the near future.
If you have a FaceBook account, you can check it out in his feed here: https://www.facebook.com/BadAxeToolWorks
If you are not quite that socially pervasive, then you will have to wait for him to add it to his website. I will try and stay in the loop and get a link to you just as soon as it is done.
On my end, I chatted with the guy who gave me the Ridgid planer dust hood to convert into a dust collection system for my bandsaw. Now I have pictures and the process explained, so I should be able to get into the shop and get that made up in short order. I’ll write something up… good or bad.